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Vicky Phelan and Sarah Lavin among alumni recognised at Education and Training Boards Ireland event

CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan, athletes Sarah Lavin and Róisín Ní Riain, and Ombudsman for Children, Dr. Niall Muldoon were among the Education and Training Boards (ETB) alumni honoured at a special event at Thomond Park.

Hosted by RTÉ newsreader and former ETB student, Ray Kennedy, ETB Alumni awards were presented to 17 former ETB learners – from across Ireland’s Education and Training Boards – who have achieved excellence in their chosen field or made an outstanding contribution to their local community. The awardees were nominated by their ETB.

The event was part of ‘ETB Week’, run by Education and Training Boards Ireland, which celebrates Ireland’s 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and the education and training services their schools, colleges and centres provide to learners across Ireland.

Accepting the award on behalf of his late wife, Vicky, Jim Phelan said: “It’s an honour to accept this award on behalf of Vicky today. As someone who placed an immense value on education throughout her life, and considered herself a ‘life-long-learner’, it’s touching that she is being acknowledged and remembered by Education and Training Boards Ireland and Kilkenny and Carlow ETB.”

The full list of 16 ETB Alumni award recipients includes:

  • Kilkenny & Carlow ETB nominee: former student at ETB School Coláiste Cois Siúire – the late Vicky Phelan. Vicky was recognised for her remarkable impact on women’s health in Ireland, through her CervicalCheck campaigning.
  • Education and Training Boards Ireland nominee: former ETB learner and education correspondent at the Irish Independent – Katherine Donnelly.
  • Limerick and Clare ETB nominees: former student at ETB school Castletroy College, and renowned Irish athlete, Sarah Lavin; as well as former student at Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh and national Paralympian swimmer Róisín Ní Riain.
  • Donegal ETB nominee: former student of the Abbey Vocational School, Donegal Town and Ombudsman for Children, Dr. Niall Muldoon.
  • Cork ETB nominee: former student at Coláiste Choilm and award-winning science communicator – Fergus McAuliffe.
  • Cavan & Monaghan ETB nominee: past pupil of Beech Hill College, Monaghan – Jamie Duffy. Jamie is a musician and songwriter, whose debut single ‘Solas’ has earned over 60 million plays on Spotify.
  • Kerry ETB nominee: former student at Kerry College who has campaigned for equal access to education, particularly for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds – Brian Votta.
  • Tipperary ETB nominee: former student at ETB school Coláiste Phobal Ros Cré – Dr. Joe Thompson. Joe is currently the Chief Engineer on Eirsat-1, Ireland’s first satellite.
  • Dublin & Dun Laoghaire ETB (DDLETB) nominee: Carolina Tavares Vinteme. Carolina came to Ireland as a refugee from Angola 22 years, with no English. She has since progressed through adult education to a culinary arts degree and now teaches on the DDLETB community education service.
  • Longford & Westmeath ETB nominee: former student at Mullingar Community College and PhD qualified Civil Engineer and MBA graduate – Kieran Owens.
  • Galway & Roscommon ETB nominee: former student at Galway Technical Institute – Isabella Tierney – who was recognised for her achievements within the fashion industry to date.
  • Kildare & Wicklow ETB nominee: former student at local ETB school in Rathangan and now owner of innovative agricultural engineering firm ‘Cross Engineering’ – Simon Cross.
  • Mayo Sligo & Leitrim ETB nominee: graduate of Youthreach in Ballinrobe who overcame educational challenges and is pursuing further studies at Galway Technological Institute – Emma Kearns.
  • City of Dublin ETB nominee: graduate of Rathmines College and founder of Focusondiversity.ie, a platform to support companies and programmes that are proactive in diversity and inclusion – Barry Walsh.
  • Waterford & Wexford ETB nominee: former Selskar College student and now owner of successful engineering business, and Chair of Leinster GAA – Derek Kent.
  • Louth & Meath ETB nominee: former alumnus at Drogheda Institute of Further Education who returned to education twenty years after leaving school and is now a teacher of adult education – Claire Chidgey.

ETB Bursary Winners

ETB Bursaries were also presented at the Thomond Park event, to exceptional current ETB learners to support their future study, entrepreneurship or community activism in the areas of Technology & AI, Green Innovation, Media & Communications and the Irish Language. Each bursary includes €5,000 and professional support. The winners of the bursaries are:

  • Winner of the Irish Language Bursary: Aoibhinn Ní Craoibhínn from Coláiste Oiriall in Cavan and Monaghan ETB, for her significant contribution to the development of Irish language and culture across her school and her community.
  • Winner of the Technology and AI Bursary: Sean O’Sullivan from Limerick and Clare ETB, for his ‘VerifyMe’ model which aims to discern human authorship in the era of Open AI. Sean is the recent winner of the 2024 BT Young Scientist competition.
  • Joint winners of the Media & Communications Bursary: Shauna O’Keefe and David Peskett, Kerry ETB for the project ‘Bright Minds’ – an app aimed to solve classroom anxiety that arises from the fear of speaking in front of peers; and Colin Reddin, from Coláiste Dhúlaigh College of Further Education, City of Dublin ETB. Colin is an animator whose work has been nominated for official selection in Animation Dingle 2024.
  • Winner of the Green Innovation Bursary: Tomás Markey, from St Brogan’s College, Cork ETB for his project developing a four-stage advancement towards ‘Direct Air Capture’.

The bursary winners were selected by a prestigious judging panel, and sponsored by: An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta & Gaelscolaíochta; Wriggle Learning; Hopkins Communications and SOLAS.

Congratulating the winners of the awards, Paddy Lavelle, Chief Executive of ETBI said: “Excellence in education across all sixteen ETBs in the country – through their current and past students is really on display today, and I congratulate all our winners on their achievements. Their stories show us the power in education, and how it can have a pivotal impact on your life’s path.

“I would like to commend our ETBs – they continue to go above and beyond to create diverse, accessible and effective learning opportunities in all corners of the country – impacting communities and ensuring people nationwide have access to education – regardless of what stage of life they are at.”

Carpool Karaoke Competition

In addition to the bursary and alumni awards presented at Thomond Park, prizes were also awarded to the winners of the ETBI carpool karaoke competition, which invited ETB staff and learners to record their carpool karaoke version of an original ETB anthem – ‘A Place to Learn’. The winners of this competition were:

  • Joint winners: Coláiste Mhuire, Buttevant, Cork ETB and Donabate Community College, Dublin & DunLaoghaire ETB.
  • Runner-up: ETB staff members from Errigal College, Donegal ETB.

Videos from the Carpool Karaoke competition can be accessed here and will be published on social media using #AplacetoLearn.

Further information about #ETBWeek is available at: https://events.etbi.ie/ETBWEEK2024

ETB Week Thomond Park Event Video